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Authors: Mary Moody

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Towards the end of her pregnancy, Lynne is huge and her belly looks hilariously out of proportion to her tiny, thin-hipped body. We look back at photographs taken just before Isabella was born and we can't help but laugh. This time she looks twice the size and her tummy skin is stretched tight like a drum around the active lump that is the unborn child. I go with her for an ante-natal visit to meet the midwife, who is Dutch, very practical and down-to-earth. We establish a good rapport and talk about various options for the birth. Lynne likes the idea of spending time in the bath during labour. She has also asked her sister Bronwyn to come and help. The plan is for Lynne's mother to come and pick up Isabella immediately Lynne goes into labour, so that Lynne can totally relax and focus on the birth. If Isabella is in the house, especially if she gets grizzly or unhappy, Lynne will be concerned and distracted. I think it's an excellent idea.

In the weeks leading up to the due date, Lynne goes in and out of labour several times. I drive back and forth between the farm and Katoomba and also stay over several nights because
Lynne feels certain the birth is imminent. But every time it looks as though she's about to pop, it all fades away.

When I stay overnight I share a room with Isabella and tend to her night-time needs. She is hooked up to a pump that delivers formula directly into her belly every two hours. The pump releases formula continuously at a slow rate overnight, but gases build up in her stomach as the food is digested. While I do know a little about the complexities of Isabella's care regime, it isn't until I am looking after her myself that I appreciate just how demanding it is for Ethan and Lynne. I need to set my alarm to wake up twice during the night so I can ‘de-gas' her little tummy. It involves disconnecting the pump, closing off the tubes then lowering the belly tube so that excess gas can escape from inside her tummy. The whole system then has to be flushed with sterile water and reconnected. Needless to say it can't be done while half asleep. I have to wake myself up totally so that I can pay attention to what I am doing. It's quite exhausting. Then before dawn I have to wake up again and give Isabella a suppository because otherwise her bowels won't work and, again, she will be in pain and distress. My admiration for my son and his young partner soars as I fully comprehend the breadth of their responsibilities.

When Lynne reaches seven days overdue, the midwife comes for a meeting at their little house. All the indications are that she is ripe and ready to go but something is stopping the process. We are all aware that there will be a certain level of fear around this birth. Even though the doctor and the midwife are confident the unborn child is perfectly normal and healthy, it's not unusual for women who have had a problem with a previous birth to become ‘blocked'. The apprehension affects nature's ability to trigger the labour.

It's a positive session and we talk honestly and openly. One of the best aspects of having a homebirth is the relationship that develops between the mother and the midwife that then spills over to the whole family, the father and the birth supporters. It is just so much more personal and intimate than having a baby in a hospital with whoever happens to be on duty at the time. Lynne has a good cry, which also helps. She knows that if she goes much more overdue she may not be able to stay at home for the birth. So the pressure is on.

Naturally, now that we have talked through the fears, Lynne goes spontaneously into labour. Weeks ago I made a large pot of chicken soup and it's on standby in the freezer. All is in readiness. Bronwyn arrives and Lynne's mother, Glynnis, takes Isabella and all her medical paraphernalia and toys and leaves us to get on with the birth peacefully.

Lynne is the most organised person I know. A place for everything and everything in its place. We light a fire because it's early March and already quite cold in the mountains. We are conserving hot water in case she feels like soaking in a bath and we are trying to keep the atmosphere as calm and soothing as possible. For the first few hours she happily labours alone. Bronwyn, the midwife and I chat quietly and keep an eye on her, knowing she will call us to her side when she really needs us. By early afternoon she does and we take turns to apply hot packs to her back and abdomen and to rock her through the contractions, which are becoming stronger and stronger. It's obviously quite a big baby and Lynne is such a small person – probably about a size 8 – and because Isabella was so tiny this time is a bit like a first birth. Her pelvic bones will have to open up really wide to get this baby out.

Ethan is, as ever, strong and unfazed. He has been to many births because when he was a child I sometimes went to support friends having homebirths and he loved to come along. He also attended three of his sister's labours. So he knows exactly what to expect. I am proud of his resilient character and his composure. Lynne is also totally in control. Every fibre of her small body is focused on the task at hand and she works well with the midwife, relaxing and breathing and following her instincts. Eventually, after a very long and hard first stage, she is ready to push. And what a task it is. Bronwyn and I catch a glimpse of the baby's head as Lynne bears down with tremendous effort. It's a big, big head and somehow Lynne has to push it through. Yet not for a moment do we lose confidence.

Each contraction brings the head further and further down and although we can see that it's a monumental task, Lynne is surely up to it. Ethan has been supporting Lynne by holding her weight in his arms while sitting on the edge of their bed. Now he moves around to the other end and Bronwyn takes over his position. As the head starts to crown the midwife takes a back seat, encouraging Ethan to work with Lynne delivering their own child. To catch the baby. I'm supporting Lynne's weight too and have a perfect view of what's happening, blurred by the tears that are falling from my eyes.

Suddenly the baby's head emerges and Ethan cradles it in the palm of his hand. The midwife checks to make sure the cord is not around the baby's neck and also positions the shoulders. On the next push the baby's body slides gently out, held lovingly in Ethan's cupped hands. He passes the baby between Lynne's legs and into her arms. They huddle together to discover the sex. It's a boy. A very big boy, and he's pink and wide awake and filling
his eager lungs with his first breath of air. At a glance it is obvious he is perfectly healthy and normal. And lusty and hungry like most newborn babies.

Caius Atticus is the name they have chosen. Quite a mouthful, but distinctive. He looks a lot like his Sicilian grandfather.

An hour after the birth David arrives, flushed with excitement, to greet his new grandson. We sit together at the end of the bed and gaze at Caius adoringly, so relieved that he is the perfect baby his parents so desperately wanted.

His birth has had a profound effect on me and I believe on David as well. It's as though Caius has brought with him new hope and new love. A new beginning. For Ethan, Lynne and Isabella. And hopefully for David and me.

 

 

MORE BESTSELLING NON-FICTION AVAILABLE FROM PAN MACMILLAN

Mary Moody

Au Revoir: Running away from home at fifty

Living the good life in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales with her husband, four grown-up children and four (and counting) grandchildren, Mary Moody's life was full. At fifty, she had built a satisfying career as a writer and television presenter which allowed her time to look after her family, house and garden. The only thing missing was time for herself, a chance to reflect on life and its meaning. Like many women of her generation, caught up with the commitments of work and family, Mary had never had a moment alone – so she decided to say
au revoir
. She ran away to live on her own for six glorious months in the rural paradise of south-west France.

Au Revoir
is the story of Mary's solo journey. It is funny, warm and reflective, as Mary adapts to life as a single person in The Lot, one of the most remote and beautiful parts of France. Revelling in the food, seasons and characters she encountered, Mary gained new insight into herself while enjoying life to the full. Her account of an escape – with its exhilarating freedom, new experiences and chance for renewal – will inspire every reader to run away from home.

 

 

 

Mary Moody

Last Tango in Toulouse: Torn between two loves

The year of her fiftieth birthday, gardening writer Mary Moody ran away from home, family and work for six months to live in a remote French village. Her book about these experiences,
Au Revoir
, struck a chord with tens of thousands of readers across Australia. Yet those experiences were to mark a beginning rather than an end. They were six months that turned the rest of her life upside down, as she bought a house in the village, persuaded her husband to sell the family home of twenty-five years and take up goose farming in central New South Wales, and abandoned her television career in favour of writing about her travelling experiences.

Yet even these dramatic events were merely the outward signs of far deeper changes that challenged the stability of thirty years of monogamy and motherhood. To her surprise, Mary found herself grappling with the intense emotion of an affair, and its consequences for her marriage and family. Her account of this fraught subject is frank, honest and painful, just as her and her husband's response to it is moving and inspirational. Amid this turmoil, Mary also rediscovered a sister not seen by the family for nearly fifty years.
Last Tango in Toulouse
is Mary's compelling account of these tumultuous upheavals in her life, and an affirmation of the power of family in overcoming the greatest challenges. Written with humour, warmth and passion, and an often searing honesty,
Last Tango in Toulouse
shows that life really can begin again at 50.

BOOK: The Long Hot Summer
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